There was only one sensible way for Winston Peters and James Shaw to approach this election.
Shaw got it right and Peters did not.
Peters realised it too late and it will probably cost New Zealand First its place in Parliament, or at least be among several contributing factors.
As Deputy Prime Minister for the past three years - a job he did well - Peters needed to campaign as No 2 for the re-election of a successful government.
Whether it came to pass or not, it was his strongest card. He needed to own a stake of it and campaign positively.
Instead he has been more like a political commentator having an out-of-body experience - cherry picking the few bits he liked in Government and highlighting the bits he didn't.
Shaw accentuates the positive, Peters accentuates the negative with not much in between.
Peters, despite having secured a Coalition deal with Labour in 2017 of almost equal partnership, has chosen to detach himself from the Government – and so have voters. It was a strategic blunder.
By default he has sided with Labour, but only by saying National and Act don't have a chance. That is not the same as campaigning on success.
The public has been largely satisfied with the way the Government has handled Covid and yet, of all issues, he has spent the past couple of months highlighting historic and previously unknown differences with Labour.
The story goes that if Labour had listened to him at the time, the second Covid outbreak in Auckland would not have happened.
It's just not convincing. And anyway, why would you highlight how ineffective you were in Government?
Peters has been more complimentary of Ardern and the whole Government's achievements in the past week, but it is too late. The mixed messages have already had their impact on New Zealand First.
Shane Jones had one final splurge of cash yesterday - of $100 million for marae upgrades from the Provincial Growth Fund. (Government spending during the campaign period needs an ethical review by the Auditor-General).
But it is not an inducement. The provinces have already banked the $3 billion PGF thank you very much, with no expectation there will be more.
The latest Colmar Brunton poll and many previous polls suggest the Greens will survive and New Zealand First will fail to make it back.
James Shaw has run a positive campaign for the Greens and their role in Government. The only thing he has been negative about is New Zealand First.
The Greens have an advantage, not only with their positive attachment to a popular party and Prime Minister in Jacinda Ardern; they have a rescue squad in the Labour left who are ready to shift to the Greens.
There is no equivalent for New Zealand First. It is possible a small number of centre-right supporters are now convinced National and Act have no chance and shift their votes to New Zealand First in the hope the Greens fall below 5 per cent. But they are randoms.
It is possible Peters has a silent army of supporters out there unwilling to admit to pollsters they support New Zealand First.
There are other factors, of course, in the party's poor showing: the Serious Fraud Office charges after the New Zealand First Foundation investigation, the dreadful campaign the party is running (except for its social media videos), and Peters' patchy enthusiasm.
With just a week to go, Peters does not have much to be positive about.